Giles was jolted from his thoughts by a sudden buzz from his pocket. His jump distracted the doctor from his monotonous instructions. “If you’ll excuse me, my phone seems to be ringing.” Giles blushed as he pulled the silver object from his pocket.
“You should take it outside. The reception in here is not very good.” The doctor suggested.
“Oh, of course.” Giles shot one warning glance to his brother, hoping Sev would get the message not to say anything too extraordinary, and headed out to the front lawn. “Rupert Giles, speaking.” He answered.
“Are you okay?”
“Of course I’m okay, why shouldn’t I be?”
“It took you a long time to answer.”
“Yes, well, I’m sorry I could not drop everything the moment you rang.”
“Ooh, touchy. Are you still at the hospital?”
Giles sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. He could already feel the headache coming on. “Yes, I am. Sorry if I seem rather snappish.”
“No biggie. So how’s your brother?”
“Yay! That’s a yay, right?”
“I suppose so. He’s in control of his mental faculties.”
“That’s good.” Buffy commented.
“Yes, I suppose that’s better than the alternatives.”
“Anyhoo, I just wanted to call and make sure everything was okay.”
“Well, that’s very kind of you.” Giles racked his brain for something to say, not quite sure how to handle his slayer’s concern for his own well being. So many aspects of Buffy were never covered in the Watcher’s Handbook. Realizing that his slayer was probably waiting for him to say something, he added. “And how are you? I hope the interruption last night did not detract from your studying. Did your test go alright?”
“I guess it went fine. I mean, at least it was in English, right? I couldn’t have done that bad.”
“Don’t sweat. I’m pretty sure I nailed three out of the four questions, and the last one I’m probably in the ballpark. It’s all about the partial credit, right?” Giles didn’t know quite how to respond to Buffy’s liberal view of grading, so he remained quiet. “Anyway, I was wondering…”
“Oh?” Giles could hear that inflection that always came when Buffy was going to squirm out of training. Even though he recognized the set up since her junior year, he still hadn’t found a good way of preventing the inevitable skipping.
“Well, I just figured, with you in the hospital with your brother, you probably don’t have time for training tonight.” Like clockwork, Giles smiled.
“I’m sure Sev doesn’t need me at his side for the entire night.” Giles started, knowing that in the end he would capitulate to her whims regardless of what arguments they made.
“No, it’s important for you to spend time with your family. Families are important. In fact, I think everyone should spend time with their family. Mom invited me home for dinner tonight and well…”
“Ah, so now Joyce is to blame for you forsaking your sacred duty?” Giles teased.
“I promise to take the long way back and go through all the major cemeteries.”
Giles sighed. He really was not in the mood to train with Buffy this evening and there were no major events on the calendar for tonight. “I suppose.”
“Yay! Thanks Giles!”
“But, I do not want you to use my brother’s injuries as an excuse. Tomorrow night we will definitely be working on your skills before patrol. Also, please give me a ring when you have finished your patrol tonight. I need an account of what you find.”
“Of course. See ya tomorrow, Giles.”
“Oh, and Buffy, send my regards to your mother when you see her tonight.”
“Regards?” Giles could already imagine the mischievous grin on his slayer’s face.
“I appreciate her willingness to pick you up last night, and hope she is doing well.”
“Oh those regards. Not the squicky kind of regards.”
“Really, Buffy, must you?”
“What? It’s an honest question.”
“Be careful on patrol tonight, and do let me know how things go.” Giles decided not to pursue the question any further.
“Sure, and you be careful, too. See ya.” Giles smiled as Buffy hung up. Despite her quirky behavior sometimes, he was proud to have Buffy as his slayer. He took a deep breath of the fresh outside air then turned back to the hospital, resigned to his brotherly duties.
“That’s another thing I don’t understand.” Rupert began as the two boys turned down another hallway from their chambers to the main part of the house. “How can we be on Christmas holiday when wizards don’t believe in Christmas?”
“What makes you think we don’t believe in Christmas?”
“Well, you’re hardly proponents of the Anglican church after so many of you were burned on the stake.”
“Actually, if you were paying any attention in history, you’d remember that it was mainly muggles that were burned by the church. Wizards were too smart to be caught.”
“It still doesn’t explain why wizards celebrate Christmas.”
“Fine, we don’t celebrate Christmas.” Severus rolled his eyes. After just two days at the Giles’ estate he was clearly going mad, although not nearly as crazy as Rupert evidently.
“So, why are we on Christmas holiday?”
“Would it make you feel any better if it was called Yule Holiday?”
“Then why are you complaining?”
“I’m not complaining. I’m just asking.”
“And, I’m telling you. Wizards celebrate Yule. It’s just like Christmas, only better because we’re not pretending it’s a birthday party for some miracle child that we’ve never met.”
“Oh.” Rupert thought on that for a moment. “Well, why didn’t you say so?”
“Why didn’t you get sorted into Ravenclaw if you wanted to ask so many dumb questions?”
“You’re just as nosy.”
“Well, yes, but I don’t pursue a topic when it’s obvious the other person doesn’t want to talk about it.”
“That’s not true. Just last week you were pursuing Rookie about what he did with the Potions exam review sheets, and he obviously didn’t want to talk about that.”
“That’s different; Rookie doesn’t count.”
“You wizards make no sense.”
“You’re a wizard too, you know.”
“Are you actually admitting that?”
“Well, you’re always insulting wizards, but you go to Hogwarts too. I’m just pointing out your hypocrisy.”
The argument was interrupted as Mrs. Giles came out of the study, heading straight for the boys. “There you are! I take it Nana told you to get dressed up?” The boys nodded. She bent down in front of Severus and began straightening the nonexistent wrinkles in his clothes. “Sir Bradford’s friends are joining us for luncheon today. It’s very important you make a good impression.”
“May I ask who is visiting?” Rupert questioned, as Cassandra moved from Severus’ clothes to Rupert’s, making the shirt collar lay flat. “Is it Mr. Merrick?”
“No. It’s the Travers family.” Both of the boys groaned.
“Now, none of that. They are friends of your family and you will respect them as such.”
“Yes Ma’am.” They replied primly. Cassandra ignored the exchange of glances and led them both into the sitting room. The boys greeted their former tutor Mrs. Travers politely, and were introduced to Mr. Travers and his son, Quentin. As soon as they were introduced, Nana led everyone to the dining room where luncheon was laid out.
Once everyone was served, the conversation began. “Which of you will be following in your father’s footsteps and becoming a watcher?” Mr. Travers asked, patronizing smile plastered on his face.
“I believe that would be me, sir.” Rupert muttered.
“Now, Rupert, I know you have better diction than that.” His former tutor chided.
“That would be me, sir.” Rupert repeated louder.
“Ah. Quentin here will also be joining the Council. He’s in his last year at Sherborne. You look about the right age to be attending Sherborne soon.”
“About the right age, yes.” Rupert answered uneasily. It was bad enough hearing about the school from his father; having a virtual stranger get on his case about the school would be too much.
Sir Bradford was watching the exchange and decided it was time to intervene. “Actually, my son will not be attending Sherborne.”
“Really?” The Travers family as a whole seemed to take a deep breath in shock.
“He’s attending the same school as Severus. We thought it better to keep the boys together.”
“Ah yes, I suppose.” Mrs. Travers answered, although she clearly followed her husband’s belief that that was a crazy decision.
“Sherborne really prepares the boys for the Council, though. Surely you remember, Bradford?” Mr. Travers commented proudly.
“Yes, I do remember and value a Sherborne education as much as the next alum, Wilford. It was a hard decision considering how many generations of Giles have been to Sherborne, something I doubt you could relate to. However, Cassandra and I have decided, as a family, that we want our boys attending the same institution.”
“Ah.” Mr. Travers glanced at Severus as though it was all his fault that Rupert was not attending the watcher’s prep school of choice. Then, deciding the boys were beneath his notice, he turned his conversation back to the elder Giles.
The boys enjoyed a brief respite while they ate until Mrs. Travers none too subtly jabbed Quentin, indicating that he should engage in polite conversation. “So, Rupert, are you interested in having your own potential, or are you more interested in research?” The older boy imitated his father’s obsession with shop talk.
“Well, I haven’t really given it much thought.” The eleven year old honestly answered. “I suppose it will depend on my studies. How about you?”
“At first I thought I would like an active slayer, but then I realized that the Council could station you anywhere. Sure, a slayer in Scotland or even France may not be that bad, but could you imagine being sent to some uncultured backwater like Egypt or America?”
“I suppose that would be horrible.” Rupert agreed, ignoring Severus’ subtle snort.
“That’s why I’ve decided to follow in my father’s footsteps and focus on training and administration. There will always be a need for someone to ‘hold down the fort’ in any organization.”
“That must be fascinating.” Rupert was proud that he managed to keep a straight face as the older boy elaborated on the exciting world of desk jobs.
“Excuse me.” Severus interrupted just as Rupert was considering the consequences of falling asleep in his soup.
“Yes?” Quentin turned his attention to the other young boy, who had yet to be included in any of the conversations.
“I was just wondering, do you know if Travers is a common last name?”
The nonsequitor threw the boy for a loop and he had to think on that for a moment. “I wouldn’t think so, no. At least I have yet to run into any that were not directly related to my family.”
“Really? That’s fascinating.”
“Why, if I may ask, is that surprising?”
“One of the boys in our year is a Travers as well.” Severus casually mentioned. “It must just be a coincidence. So, tell us, what sort of training do you need to join the Watcher’s Council? Is there an entrance exam?”
The rest of lunch was spent listening to both the older and younger Travers wax on about the rigors and duties of overseeing the Council. The boys were thrilled when Cassandra and Bradford finally dismissed them from the table, and they barely had time to politely excuse themselves before they were tearing down the halls back to their rooms.
Tearing off his tie, and throwing it into the clothes hamper, Rupert went straight to his step-brother’s room. “Open up.”
“Hmm?” Severus answered, peeking out of his room.
“You have to tell me.”
“Tell you what?”
“What was with that crazy question?”
“About Damon’s last name. There must have been some reason for it, and you got that look after Quentin answered.”
“Surely it’s obvious.”
“No, what’s obvious?”
“Travers is hardly a common name. It’s rare in both the muggle and the magical world.”
“So, that means somehow Damon is related to your father’s friends.”
“Do I have to spell everything out for you? Obviously, that means you father’s friends are squibs.”
“No, that’s impossible. Mr. Travers went to Sherborne.”
“Yes, but your father said that his family didn’t traditionally go there.”
“I suppose.” Rupert thought on that for a moment. “So, as a Slytherin, what should I be doing with this information?”
Severus smiled. It was nice to see he could teach his step-brother a few new tricks. “Well, first we have to confirm the facts, but that shouldn’t be too difficult. Then, we wait until we need blackmail for either side of the Travers. I’m not sure if Damon actually cares if he has a squib cousin, although it would diminish his position in the house. The squibs might be very touchy about the subject. I wonder what would happen if your father had actually mentioned which school we went to.”
“So in other words, you’re so excited you’re practically smiling and all because you may or may not have some blackmail that you will probably never get to use? You’re barmy.”
“Actually, from a Slytherin point of view, I’d rather have a barmy family member than a squib. Remember Rupert, in Slytherin, family is everything.”